By J.R. Miller
"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Rescue me from my enemies, O LORD, for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. For your name's sake, O LORD, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble."
Some people never pray. Others say that prayer cannot do anything for them. It is very pathetic when men thus cut themselves off from God--whom they need so deeply.
No day starts well or safely--without its morning prayer. We need to get the touch of Christ's hand upon us, to give us strength and courage for our day. Many of us have to rise early and hurry away to work that is hard and sometimes frets and irks us. Perhaps we are thrown among people who are not kindly and congenial, who try us and irritate us by their talk and behavior. The days bring their temptations, their allurements, their false paths, their burdens, their responsibilities, their struggles, possibly sudden sorrows. To push out into any new day without prayer, is perilous. However quiet and sweet the morning air is, we need God to lead us in the quiet and sweetness. If we are going into a day of storm and trouble, we certainly need the divine shelter and guidance.
The morning prayer sets the day apart. We should begin each one with God. It is a great secret of beautiful and faithful living, to learn to live by the day. One day at a time, and then begin each day at God's feet. In the morning prayer in this Psalm, there are six petitions:
"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love." This is a prayer that the first voice to break upon our ears at the opening of the day shall be the voice of God.
Henry Drummond says: "Five minutes spent in the companionship of Christ every morning--yes, two minutes, if it is face to face and heart to heart--will change your whole day, will make every thought and feeling different, will enable you to do things for His sake--that you would not have done for your own sake."
It is very sweet when one is living in constant fellowship with Christ, to look into His face in the first waking moment, to thank Him for His love, to receive His smile of forgiveness and peace, and His blessing for the day. "Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." After being with God--we are ready for anything that the day may bring.
We cannot go out to sing in the morning, unless we have first opened our hearts to hear the song of divine love. Fitting is the prayer, "Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you." When we hear God's voice of love in the morning, we are ready for anything.
The second petition of this morning prayer is, "Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk." We cannot know the way ourselves. The path across one little day, seems a very short one--but we cannot find it ourselves. Each day is a hidden world to our eyes. We cannot see a single step before us. There is an impenetrable darkness that covers the sunniest day as with night's sable robes. You know not, what the unspent hours of this very day may hold for you. They may have surprises of joy, or they may have surprises of sorrow for you. They may lead you into a garden of pleasure--or a garden of anguish. All you can do is to commit your way to God, praying, "Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk."
It brings rest and peace to us, as we look out upon a day's hidden paths, not knowing where we ought to go, to remember that God knows all. Job speaks of the mystery of life, when one seeks the way and cannot find it: "I go east, but he is not there. I go west, but I cannot find him. I do not see him in the north, for he is hidden. I turn to the south, but I cannot find him. But he knows where I am going. When he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold."
God has many ways of answering this prayer and making us know the way. He puts His Word into our hands and says, "Take, and read."
Another of God's voices speaks within. "The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord," says the Scripture. We call this candle conscience, and it burns in our breasts as a lamp burns in a room at night.
Then, God guides us through human friends. Someone advises young people always to seek to have an older friend to whom they can go for the wisdom learned from experience.
Sometimes the way amid the tangles is made plain, through some providence. One door is shut and another is opened. A friend was telling how when he was in much uncertainty about his duty on a certain occasion, when a great task was laid into his hands, and when he prayed to have the way made plain, he was led into a sick room. He did not think of that as the answer to his prayer--but in that place of pain he learned the very lesson he needed to learn, and found the very guidance he sought. When the oriental shepherd led his flock through some dark valley--it was because that was the way to a bit of green pasture on the other side.
Or the answer to your prayer may be a keen disappointment. "O God, this cannot be the way!" you cry. If Joseph, the morning he left home to go to his brothers, had prayed, "Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk," he might have wondered as he was led to Egypt as a slave--if that were the answer to his prayer. It certainly did not seem as if God were directing him those days. But as the years went on, he learned that there had been no mistake in the guidance. If he had escaped from his brothers or from the caravan, he would have only spoiled one of God's plans of love for his life. We need never be afraid to pray this prayer--and then to accept the answer, whatever it is. God will show us the way--if we will accept His guidance.
The third petition in our morning prayer is, "Save me from my enemies, LORD; I run to you to hide me." The day is full of dangers. We do not know it; we see no danger. We go out, not dreaming of any possible peril. Yet everywhere there are enemies. Disease lurks in the air we breathe, hides in the water we drink, and is concealed in the food we eat. Along the street where we walk, on the railway on which we ride, there are perils. No African jungle is so full of wild beasts, savage and blood-thirsty, as are the common days with malignant spiritual enemies. We are aware of no danger and, therefore, cannot protect ourselves.
What can we do? As we go out in the morning we can offer this prayer, "Save me from my enemies, LORD; I run to you to hide me." Thus we can put our frail, imperilled lives each morning into the keeping of the Mighty God.
We have no promise that prayer will take the dangers out of our day. It is not in this way that God usually helps. Prayer brings God down about us, a heavenly protection, making us safe in the midst of most hurtful things. Not to pray as we go into the day--is to venture among life's thousand perils--with our heads uncovered, with no armor about us. The problem of life is not to get an easy, safe way--but to go through the way, though beset with perils--unhurt; to be kept from harm--amid sorest dangers.
Every day's experiences have their perils for us, which with prayer become helps and blessings--but without prayer can only harm and devastate our lives. We cannot help ourselves. We cannot compel the dangers to become our shelter. We cannot cover our own souls with any shield that will make us safe. The only safety for us any day--is in prayer. If we understood what perils there are for us, if our eyes were opened to give us a glimpse of the enemies that wait for us in cloud or sunshine--we would never dare to go forth from our door any morning--until we had first called upon God to deliver us from our enemies.
We cannot keep ourselves; God alone can keep us. We are safe nowhere but under the shadow of His wings. We should flee to Him to hide us. It is never safe to go forth any morning, without a prayer of committal of ourselves to God's watchful care.
The fourth petition of this morning prayer is: "Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing."
"Teach me to do your will." A little before the writer prayed, "Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk." But knowing the way is not enough: we must also walk in it. Mary Lyon said she feared nothing so much as that she would not know all her duty--and that she would not do it. Paul said, "The good which I would do--I do not do."
When we ask God in the morning to show us the way, we must ask Him also to teach us to go in the right path. "Lead me on level ground." A great many people know their duty--better than they do it. It should be our aim in all things--to conform to God's will. But we need God's help to do this. Our hearts are inclined to disobedience. We do not naturally love to walk "on level ground." We need both to be taught and led. "Teach me ... Lead me" are the two prayers. We all need to pray these prayers together.
Sometimes the answer does not come in sweet, easy ways, with breath of fragrance and in summer sunshine. Sometimes the teaching comes in sore pain and loss, and the leading is over sharp stones, along a rough, steep path. Still our prayers should be, even amid tears and pain: "Lord, Teach me . . . Lead me." If in no other way we can be saved, it is better that we lose out of our life all the flowers and sunshine, and walk amid thorns and in darkness, reaching home at last, than that we walk in flowery paths and in the brightness, and never get home at all. So each morning let us continue to pray, "Teach me . . . Lead me." "Teach me to do your will. Lead me in your ways."
The fifth petition in this morning prayer is, "Quicken me, O Lord." To quicken is to give life. We have no strength for the day's duties and struggles. We feel ourselves weak and faint. Perhaps we are physically unable for the work before us. We certainly are spiritually weak. Our life's fountains need refilling. This is a prayer for life, new life. Christ came that we might have life--and might have it in abundance. He is ready to give it to all who will take it. We need but to ask for it.
In the morning as we go forth to the day's toils, tasks, cares, and struggles, our prayer should be: "Quicken me, O Lord. Give me life and strength. Put Your Spirit into my heart. Breathe Your own breath into my soul. Shed abroad Your love in me. Quicken me with strength inwardly. Fill me with Yourself." If we pray such a prayer--we shall not fail through weakness. The power of Christ will then rest upon us, and when we are weak in ourselves--then shall we be strong in Christ.
The last petition of this morning prayer is, "For your name's sake, O LORD, preserve my life. In your righteousness, bring my soul out of trouble." The day may bring sorrow, or it may bring other trouble. We cannot guide our feet through the dark valley. Sorrow is meant to do us good and will do so--if we have God to lead us through it.
One writes: "Gardeners sometimes, when they would bring a rose to richer flowering, deprive it for a season of light and moisture. Silent and dark it stands, dropping one fading leaf after another, and seeming to go practically down to death. But when every leaf is dropped and the plant stands stripped to the uttermost, a new life is even then working in the buds, from which shall spring a tenderer foliage and a brighter wealth of flowers. So, after in celestial gardening, every leaf of earthly joy must drop, before a new and divine bloom visits the soul."
Thus it is that sorrow works blessing and good in the child of God--when the Holy Spirit guides the life through the experience. But our prayer must always be that God would bring our soul out of sorrow, for otherwise only harm and not good can come from it. Sorrow will wound and scar our life--unless the gentle hand of Christ be upon us to heal and comfort.
Then, there are other troubles besides sorrows--business troubles, home troubles, cares, disappointments, difficulties of a thousand kinds. We know not what any day may bring to us. We need God's wisdom, God's power, God's guidance--or we shall never get through unharmed. Let us learn to lay all the tangled threads of our life in the hands of the Master. He can take them, disentangle them, and with them weave beauty and blessing. At the opening of each day, may our prayer be, "In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble."
If we but learn to begin each busy day at God's feet with such a morning prayer as this--we shall go forth with bright face, happy heart, strong hand, and firm step--to live loyally, faithfully, sweetly, and usefully all the day.